Jesse’s Homeless Face

By Michael Lee Johnson

Posted on

(version 3)

Someday Jesse wants to go home.

I see his world,

all it’s hidden concepts

embedded in Jesse’s aging facelife

has whispered by leaving

memory trails

wrinkled forehead,

deep as river bed ruts

dried with years, weather-beaten,

just above his bushy eyebrows

that are gray and twisted

much like life drawing memories

across his empty face.

Jesse has a long oblique

Jewish nose with dark

blue opal eyes,

that would pierce

even the pain

of his own crucifixion.

Life tears flow though

a whole new ghoulish

apparition, a vision

of homelessness plastered

east of Dearborn Bridge,

near Lower Wacker Drive,

downtown Chicago

where affluent citizens

seldom go unless inebriated;

puke-stained, or in a taxicab.


Jesse’s hair sprouts skyward,

groomed like an abandoned

dove nest in wild Chicago

meandering winds.

Puffed eye bags of weariness

sag likes sandbags,

one slightly heavier than the other.

Weeks of breaded growth

contour his chin in color blends

of white and black.

Over one shoulder drapes

a grungy gray blanket found

in Lilly Mae’s garbage can,

the other shoulder,

naked, but tanned,

bears itself to the elements.


Jesse panhandles during the day.

At night and early Sunday mornings,

you can find him behind

a local McDonalds,

near Cracker Creek,

sharing leftover burgers

and sugar candy

with river rats

Jesse considers it an act of religious charity;

age 69, someday soon,

Jesse wants to go home.


–  Michael Lee Johnson


Author’s Notes: “Jesse’s Homeless Face” was written from a vivid picture I saw online; thus, it qualifies as Ecphrasis Poetry. Its varied images come from a variety of sources ranging from the homeless faces I have seen through life when I was young, and more or less sleeping out of my car on the streets.

near Cracker Creek,
sharing leftover burgers
and sugar candy
with river rats

The above image is a factual one. While downing a Big Mac in my car with a friend near a small stream we watched huge rats get up on shore and finish off leftovers while still in the parking lot of that Chicago McDonalds. I think it’s fair to assume, we know the source of the leftovers. Many homeless people, unfortunately, share those leftovers also.